Unlisted Rubber Coupon & the Economic History of Rubber in Malaya & Singapore


Fig 1 : Singapore Botanic Gardens
Shortly after Saran Singh's "The Encyclopaedia of Dry Rubber Export Coupons : Malaya, Ceylon & Netherlands East Indies 1922-1942" was officially launched in January 2017, I received an email invitation from Mr. Y. H. Hsien expressing his excitement about the book and invited Saran & myself to visit his exhibition titled "Ridley & the Rubber Industry" at the library of the Singapore Botanic Gardens (SBG). After several email exchanges I decided to make a trip to SGB while I was in Singapore for the Singapore International Coin Fair 2017 (24-26 March 2017). Unfortunately Saran could not make it for the trip due to some commitments.

Mr. Y. H. Hsien is a private collector of stamps, coupons and ephemera related to the economic and social history of Malaya and Singapore for over 30 years. He is the council member of the Singapore Stamp Club and an active volunteer of the the National Library and National Archives of Singapore.  This exhibition is a collaboration between SBG's Library of Botany & Horticulture and and Mr. Y.H. Hsien.

Fig 2. : Henry N. Ridley (1855-1956)
(Source: Wikipedia)
As the topic suggests, the exhibition highlights Henry Ridley's contributions to the development of the rubber industry in its early days, which went on to make Malaya the biggest producer of natural rubber from the late 1800s right up to the 1950s. He has been credited with the discovery of a method of tapping rubber from the tree in 1895 without damaging or killing the tree, hence made is possible to cultivate and produce rubber at in industrial scale. That in effect contributed to the rubber book for which many Chinese tycoons made their fortunes from rubber and many have also contributed generously to the economic and social development of Malaya and Singapore.

The exhibition was launched on 24 October 2016, which coincides with 60 years of Ridley's passing. This exhibition is free entry and it will run to 31 August 2017. Please note that it is open on weekdays only i.e. Monday - Friday, 9am - 5pm; Closed on Weekends and Public Holidays.

There are many types of artifacts on display from that era, from rubber seeds, books, share certificates, rubber export coupons, maps, brochures and many others.

A very special thanks to Mr. Y. H. Hsien for his invitation and a personalized tour of the exhibits.


Fig 3 : The SBG Library

Fig 4 : Exhibition area
Fig 5. The seed that started it all, before rubber came along coffee was widely planted in Malaya,

Fig 6. Books and photos related to rubber industry 

Fig 7. Some books on rubber trade if you want to research more.

Fig 8. A booklet commemorating the 150th anniversary of Singapore and developers of rubber industry in Singapore and Malaysia, published in 1969

Fig 9. The Chinese Chamber of Commerce is closely tied to the rubber industry at that time.

Fig 10. Information of rubber tycoons Lim Boon Keng and Dato' Loke Wan Tho.

Fig 11. Some background of Tan Kah Kee and Lim Kong Chuan


Fig 12. Postal artifacts related to Henry Ridley, note the special chop with "Henry Ridley" on the aerogramme. 

Fig 13. United Malacca Estates - the very first big rubber estate companies in Malaya and Tun Tan Cheng Lock was one of the founders. He later went on to be the founder of the Malayan Chinese Association (MCA)

Fig 14. Background on Tan Chay Yan, he was credited with the founding of the first rubber plantation in Malacca.

Fig 15. The book "Species" by Henry Ridley.


Fig 16. A world map on the rubber industry, printed in  1925.

Fig 17. Books and share certificates - including the Galang Besar plantation cert


Fig 18. Head lamps worn by rubber tappers. They have to start tapping as early as 5am, before sunrise.

Fig 19. Photos of rubber planatation and industry.

Fig. 20. Processing the rubber for export.
Fig 21. The name does sound very familiar - this is one of more unique share certificates with the picture of the founder/owner.

Fig 22. Share certificate on Swee Lam Estates Limited.
Fig 23. Rubber export coupons




Fig 23. Straits Settlements Coupon for 10 Katis, valid until 31 July 1935. And this is NOT LISTED in Saran's book!
Fig 24. Letters and documents pertaining to the rubber restriction scheme in Malaya.



Fig 25. Rubber coupons of Ceylon and Netherlands East Indies

Fig 26. Plantation tokens used in Sumatra.

- End